The Drop D Tuning

author: ken20008 date: 03/17/2009 category: for beginners
rating: 6.5 / votes: 11 
This lesson focuses on the Drop D tuning, and is geared towards beginners (cause advanced guitarists should already know, but if you don't, feel free to read on:D) who have grasped playing power chords in standard tuning. How does the Drop D tuning make your life easier? Read on. Remember my past power chords lesson? it's power chords 2 in lessons, check it out if you haven't.
F5
e|-------------|
B|-------------|
G|-------------|
D|-3-----------|
A|-3-----------|
E|-1-----------|
By now, I presume you can play power chords smoothly enough. Play any power chord you like, but make sure it's root is on the six string. (Do this in standard first). That same chord above in drop D would be played like this:
F5
e|-------------|
B|-------------|
G|-------------|
D|-3-----------|
A|-3-----------|
D|-3-----------|
Note the difference in fret number on the last string? You ca now play the same power chord but with one finger. After tuning down you can use any of your first three fingers (little finger not recommended) to play the three strings on one fret to play the same power chord, just easier. Next I will explain how to tune down. Drop D is a tuning which you "drop" the sixth string (the thickest string) from E to D (lower). This means dropping the note down a step. One fret is one step, which means by dropping the 6th string to D who have tuned that string down one whole step. Just to tell you, one step = two frets = one whole note change. When you move up two frets, you move up one whole note. For example: E--0---2--- The open note (0) is E. By playing on fret 2, you play the note F. One letter up! And if you play fret 1, it will be E#(Esharp) or Fb (Fflat), whichever you prefer. The same concept applies when you tune down your guitar to drop D. You are literally tuning the last string two frets down, or one whole step. So depending you your kind of headstock and layout of your tuning pegs, find the tuning peg for your last string and tune down. If you dont know how to, just experiment. Generally, on a normal Fender (or a copy), you tune lower by turning the peg clockwise (towards you). Im not sure about Les Paul style headstocks, just try. To tune down correctly, turn the peg slowly while picking the string (just the 6th string) constantly, listen carefully as it tunes down. Now since you may not know how it should sound like, and I can't explain it in words, here are some guidelines to check: -First of all, strum this:
e|-------------|
B|-------------|
G|-------------|
D|-0-----------|
A|-0-----------|
E|-0-----------|
Does it sound correct? Play the dropped string on it's own. Does it sound flat or sharp? This might sound stupid because you don't know how the note sounds, but if you aren't tone deaf you should be able to tell. Check with these other methods. -there's already a d string on your guitar when in standard, the 4th string, albeit the high one. (Remember, in standard, eaDgbe, in drop d, DaDgbe) What you want to achieve is having your last string an octave lower than the 4th string, which means having the same note (D), just lower. 12 frets = one octave. In other words, the 12th fret of your 6th string should sound like the open note of the open 4th string. They should essentially sound the same. After you are confident that they are the same, play this:
e|--------------|
B|--------------|
G|--------------|
D|-----0-----0--|
A|---0-----3----|
D|-0-----3------|
Play it slowly. It should sound nice and in tune. By the way that's the intro to Tool's Lost Keys (Blame Hoffman), if you know the song, you can use it as a reference. Or simply use the 4th string as a reference. Once you are confident that you are in tune, play this:
    E5 F5 F#5 G5 G#5 A5 Bb5 B5 C5 C#5  D5
e|-----------------------------------------|
B|-----------------------------------------|
G|-----------------------------------------|
D|--2--3---4--5---6--7---8--9--10--11--12--|
A|--2--3---4--5---6--7---8--9--10--11--12--|
D|--2--3---4--5---6--7---8--9--10--11--12--|(ROOT)
They should sound good. If not, check your tuning. Alternatively, just use a tuner if you have one. If you have to rely on help or the tuner to tune to this tunig, don't fret. Just try to use this tuning everytime you play, and listen to bands who use this tuning often. You will get it as long as you play often. Note that the set of power chords above sound the same as: In standard
    E5 F5 F#5 G5 G#5 A5 Bb5 B5 C5 C#5  D5
e|-----------------------------------------|
B|-----------------------------------------|
G|-----------------------------------------|
D|--2--3---4--5---6--7---8--9--10--11--12--|
A|--2--3---4--5---6--7---8--9--10--11--12--|
E|--0--1---2--3---4--5---6--7--8---9---10--|(ROOT)
Same sound, same thing but note the frets of the last string. They all moved up by 2 frets in drop d. that's because you just tuned your last string down by 2 frets, and to play the same power chord in drop d you need to play two frets up on the 6th string. But that just makes things easier, you can play those power chords with one finger. Tuning to drop D also opens up two interesting power chords:
  D5 D#5
e|--------------|
B|--------------|
G|--------------|
D|-0-1----------|
A|-0-1----------|
E|-0-1----------|
These are full power chords not playable I standard tuning. The open D chord is a nice chord, great for writing original stuff if you use it well. Practise wise, you can try looking up tabs for songs that utilize this tuning. Or convert your favourite songs in standard to drop D. Experiment: this tuning is a fun one to play around with. Hope you enjoyed this lesson!
More ken20008 lessons:
+ Power Chords II For Beginners 05/25/2007
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